With a Tail As Big As a Kite
"A Star To Guide Them" Plot Summary:
Hercules and Iolaus are camping in shirtsleeves, discussing what perfect weather it is for the Winter Solstice Festival, when Iolaus has a vision. He doesn't know what it means, but he sees an old oak tree, a stone marker, a metal insignia, and Hercules looking through a keyhole. He wakes Hercules up and announces that he feels a purpose, and knows he must travel north. His hands have been burned red.
Meanwhile, King Polonius of Bethos has returned home from Delphi with an alarming prophecy: the infant who will succeed him will not be his descendant. His pregnant wife Milliphone demands that all babies in the kingdom be rounded up. Uris, a farmer with a newborn, has had a vision identical to Iolaus' and also has reddened hands. Hercules and Iolaus encounter him on the trip north, help hide his wife and child in another province, and invite Uris to travel with them. They also pick up a thief named Trinculus who has had the vision as well.
Learning that Hercules is in the kingdom, Milliphone calls upon Hera to help her vanquish him; Hera provides superhuman soldiers who can burn anything they touch. Hercules listens in confusion as his traveling companions share notes on their dream and begin to see signposts: the stone marker, the old tree, the metal insignia which they realize is the king's signet. The men try to rescue all the women and babies by hiding them in the hills, but more than two dozen are taken by the king's men, and he plans to execute all the infants. They hunt down Uris' wife on the queen's command.
Trinculus takes his money and flees, but finds himself drawn back to the quest none of them understand. The three mortals fight off the guards while Hercules takes care of Hera's soldiers; when the king attacks Uris, Trinculus stabs Polonius. Hercules reminds the queen that the people have the right to elect their own ruler if the king dies without a living heir, so she and her unborn child will be banished.
Through a keyhole window in the castle, Hercules and Iolaus see a new star in the sky; they follow it to a glowing cottage. Iolaus, Uris, and Trinculus go ahead to see what's inside, and Hercules promises that he'll be there.
A pretty fluffy but harmless seasonal episode, with minor rip-offs of the Christmas story but not enough to offend anyone who interprets the Bible literally. A king who wants all the boy babies dead, a mother traveling in secrecy, farmers and thieves seeing visions...I was splorting a little at the image of Iolaus, Trinculus, and Uris as the Three Wise Men, and even more at the vague suggestions of connection between Hercules and Jesus, whose name this episode wisely never mentions.
I was puzzled by various Shakespeare references - Polonius is the name of the garrulous royal advisor in Hamlet, and Trinculo was a thief from The Tempest, but probably these were just names someone picked as interesting, rather than signifying anything. The evil queen had definite Lady Macbeth overtones; I expected her to threaten to pluck her infant from her breast and dash its brains out if it would serve her power-hungry ends! Uris was a little too bland and Trinculus a little too predictable, but they didn't get too much in the way of Hercules and Iolaus, so they were OK.
I liked seeing Iolaus get his own quest and Hercules having to act as sidekick, and it's interesting that the quest he got did not come from the Greek gods at all. It's hard to get a sense of timeline in this epic, and hard to imagine the world could ever be big enough for Hercules and Christ at the same time. But then, on Hercules, all things are possible, all reconciliations workable, all of history and geography altered, all can be joined in love and brotherhood by the presence of one man. Sort of reminds me of another story I've read...in the Bible, I think. A child born in Bethos, huh?
There was some nice directing in this episode - a dissolve from an illustration of the insignia to the real thing, some interesting dream images, some impressive work with fire. Other than the almost unbearably hokey image at the end, it was inoffensive for a Dreaded Holiday Episode (TM).